With Wednesday’s trade deadline just a few days away, it’s not surprising to see the NHL’s rumour mill kicking into gear as more and more teams fall out of the playoff picture and become categorized as sellers.
One team that isn’t in that sellers category are the Ottawa Senators, who according to Bruce Garrioch, have reportedly kicked tires on Jiri Hudler, Patrick Sharp, Martin Hanzal, Thomas Vanek and P.A. Parenteau.
What do all of those players have in common?
They’re all impending unrestricted free agents.
It’s hard to imagine the Senators being competitive in the rental market, considering how earlier in the week, the Anaheim Ducks set the bar by acquiring impending UFA Patrick Eaves from the Dallas Stars for a conditional second round pick. (Read: the conditions of the pick allow it to become a first round pick if the Ducks reach the Western Conference finals and Eaves meets a specific games played threshold.)
No one should blame Pierre Dorion for doing his due diligence and finding out what the asking prices are for these aforementioned players, but it’s hard to imagine the Senators getting too heavily involved in these negotiations considering the team has already moved their 2017 second rounder last year’s Dion Phaneuf trade and their 2018 second round pick in this past summer’s Derrick Brassard deal.
Through these trades, I have a hard time believing the organization has the appetite to delve too much into the rental market knowing that the absence of these picks has already cost them a significant chunk of their future, but that’s easy for me to say, I’m not the rookie general manager and I don’t have to answer to Eugene Melnyk if his playoff mandate isn’t met.
NHL.com‘s Mike Kelly addressed the predicament facing Ottawa succinctly in two tweets:
I’d go a step further and say that if the team’s penalty killing takes a hit, they will be in tough, but Kelly’s right in pointing out the reality of the situation: if the team’s record to this point in the season is inflated and the team’s underlying numbers are a more accurate reflection of the true talent of this team, will it serve this team’s short and long-term interests to be throwing future assets at a rental?
It would be one thing if the opportunity cost involved was a middling pick, but it’d be hard to stomach seeing the Senators flip valuable future assets for players who won’t be long for this organization. This obviously isn’t palatable for the fans who yearn for the instant gratification that comes with seeing their favourite organization make a splashy signing or trade, but dumpster diving on modest upgrades or moving assets to acquire controllable assets might serve the team’s interests best here.
Keeping that in mind, adding a player like a Parenteau makes sense, assuming he’s the player that Ottawa’s scout went to see at last night’s game versus the Rangers . He’d be the cheapest upgrade of the names listed above and hell, he might be the most effective of the lot.
The problem facing Dorion is that his situation is complicated by the fact that: 1) a lull could push his team out of the playoff picture; 2) the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division are so winnable, that management and ownership could be persuaded to think that this could be the team’s best opportunity to go for it; 3) if he acquires a forward with term, it means the Senators could be faced with the position, barring a separate trade in the offseason, of exposing a forward like Dzingel, Smith or Pageau in the expansion draft.
Most trade deadlines are pretty anticlimactic, but with the Senators also being linked to the Colorado Avalanche’s Matt Duchene and you have a trade deadline that can go in a number of different ways. (As an aside, if Dorion can talk the Avalanche into a package based around Cody Ceci and Logan Brown, I’m game.)
Even if the deadline lacks the splash that many are looking for, this offseason could be even more bountiful in regards to the kinds of talents that will be available.
It’s an exciting time of year that offers the opportunity for a lot of player movement, but more than anything, I’m looking forward to getting more insight into how the organization and its brain trust view this team’s chances. I’m wagering that the Senators will follow their recent pattern of behavior that favours its short-term interests, but hey, I’d happy with being pleasantly surprised as well.